What does the word “church” mean? Most of the people you talk to will tell you that church is the building, the place where people go to “church.” So, most people define it as “a building.” In the Bible there is a totally different concept presented for the definition of “church.” In Matthew 16:18, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” church is used by Jesus to mean an “assembly” of people. The Greek word is “ekklesia.” This word is used for church or meeting or meeting house. It is also thought to be used for a gathering or assembly of Christian believers, a church in one place. Each of these are given to us by George Rickter Berry. But when you go to the Greek Lexicon NAS NT, you will find the definition is somewhat more expanded. It is:A gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly,
a. an assembly of the people convened at a public place of the council for the purpose of dilberating,
b. the assembly of the Israelites,
c. any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance, tumultuously and
d.in a Christian sense - (1) an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting; (2) a company of Christians, of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake; (3) those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body; (4) the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth; (5) the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven.
In any case we see ekklesia is really a gathering, an assembly of people gather for a purpose. In the Christian sense, we can see that there is no mention of a building but a “people gathering for worship of the Lord Jesus Christ” or the collective, all over the earth, of all those who believe in Christ and have the hope of eternal life, and those who are already in heaven. We are the church! The church of Jesus Christ who gather at North Anderson Baptist Church, a local body of believers choosing to meet together as the body of Christ in this place.
Having said that, we use church all the time as a building, “I go to church down at North Anderson Baptist, you know, the stone church on Clemson Boulevard across from McDougald Funeral Home.” We know the difference but we rarely use it correctly.
In our passage today, Peter writes about the church and it’s real foundation, the One who is in charge and died for the “church.”